Covid-19 lockdown puts caregivers for disabled people under stress
The Covid-19 lockdown is taking a physical and psychological toll on the families of people with disabilities. Many caregivers are elderly parents who have to cope with household chores and care for a disabled family member. Recognising this, many organisations and state governments have come forward to start online counselling services. That’s our focus on #StoryOfTheWeek.
Frustrated and angered by his 45-year-old disabled son’s repeated refusal to wear a face mask while going out, a 78-year-old man in Kolkata killed his son during a quarrel that broke out. The father later told the police that his son had been going out of the house regularly without wearing mask despite being told he needed to wear one for being safe against the Covid-19 pandemic.
The incident highlights the intense pressure and strain caregivers of family members of people with disabilities have come under during this prolonged lockdown. The mental health impact of managing household chores, working from home and caring for a disabled relative is enormous and not enough attention is being given to caring for the caregivers.
Caring for caregivers under focus
Recognising this, Kolkata-based Sruti Disability Rights Centre has started online/telephonic counselling services for disabled people and their caregivers after receiving distress calls from many caregivers.
Caregivers are mentally disturbed as they are finding it difficult to explain to disabled family members about the pandemic and dealing with the quarantine. Many disabled people are also feeling insecure and helpless as medicines are unavailable and therapists are unable to come and give the required services. We are starting online/telephonic counselling services by senior clinical psychologists who are fluent in Bangla and English. – Shampa Sengupta, Sruti Disability Rights Centre
This service will be free of cost and will continue until July 2020. Those interested can drop a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected to a counsellor.
In Maharashtra, the state government has partnered with NGO Project Mumbai to launch a toll-free helpline for mental wellness called SAMVAAD. Apart from this Project Mumbai has a pan-India toll free helpline for parents of children with disabilities to cope with the Covid-19 stress. The service is available seven days a week from 8 am to 8 pm. There are over 50 counsellors from across India available and the service is available in eight languages.
Maharashtra starts dedicated helpline for mental wellness
“Maharashtra the first in the country to take on Mental health concern head-on”, points out Shishir Joshi, Co-founder and CEO, Project Mumbai. “While so many of us are fighting this war against the virus, an equally prolonged battle is ahead of us, and we aren’t only referring to the economic impact. Globally, mental health meltdowns have been reported across cities and countries. The lock-down and resultant impact, increased stress levels, wage cuts, job losses and an impending list of worries threaten our generation–and probably the next”.
At a smaller level, some organisations are stepping forward to help. In Kolkata, many schools for children with disabilities are helping parents to cope with activity sessions and tips.
Anindita Mitra, mother to a 10-year-old on the autism spectrum, says school activities have helped cope with his meltdowns to some extent. “Before the lockdown he would go to school every day and go out in the evenings. Now that has stopped, and he is very restless and keeps asking why we cannot step out. The school shares some worksheets on a regular basis, and I have organised activities for him as well”.
Mallika Bhattacharjee, who lives with her aged parents and children, is coping with the lockdown impact all by herself. “My husband works in another city and I am living with two aged parents and a son who is on the spectrum. He is irritated all the time as his usual routine and discipline is missing. I have a lot of housework as well and am unable to spend too much time with him. Fortunately, the school assignments keep him occupied”.
With the lockdown likely to continue in many parts of India, there is a need to look at offering caregivers support on a sustained basis, says Amrita Roy Choudhary, who is the founder of Transcendent Knowledge Society and WonderHouse, a school for children with disabilities.
“Before lockdown people had some time to meet each other and share their concerns. Now they are bearing the full burden and anxiety levels are high. It is important to focus on giving emotional support to caregivers”, says Amrita, whose centre is offering tele-counselling services. “Tele counselling helps manage behavioural issues in a limited way”.
To get a detailed list of organisations that are supporting disabled people during the lockdown, click here.
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